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“God knows that women can reach women like no one else can.  He knows that women can nurture and disciple women in such a way that they will get it.  God knows that women can lead women and that they can do it through the local church.  Le’ts get back to what God’s intention was in the beginning.  There is no better way.”  

~~  Jaye Martin, “Women Leading Women”.

For the past several months, I have been sharing my journey of Leadership in Women’s Ministry. It’s a journey that the Lord has walked me through, and I wasn’t ready to share what He taught me until I was a good distance on the other side. Some of the best life lessons are learned not through perfect journeys, but somewhat scarred and marred ones. You see, if we never experience the battles, we will never understand and appreciate the victories. And we won’t have the real life wisdom that comes from being in the trenches, walking out our faith and our calling.

I did a Beth Moore CD study on Leadership a few years ago, and as she was describing in detail what it means to dress ourselves in the Armor of God every day, she so beautifully described the Shield of Faith, which protects us from the fiery darts of the enemy. She said (I’m paraphrasing), “Caesar awarded his soldiers after battle, some with shields full of darts. We don’t want the darts, but the beauty of a shield full of darts is not that you didn’t take a hit–the darts are the point. The beauty of it is we held up our shields.”  God protects and preserves us for His good work when we trust Him and hold up our shield of faith.

To recap, here are a few reminders as we continue to walk out our leadership journey together as women!

** Sometimes our God Dreams are derailed, discarded, and delayed. We can sometimes be blindsided by relational issues that can undermine the ministry and take it off course.  We need to learn how to navigate strong personalities and develop environments that lead to open, honest communication, and healthy accountability.  We must remember that healthy relationships are vital to effective leadership. We must let go of what entangles us and keeps us from running the race God has set before us.

** Sometimes God takes us to the place of Something Else. Usually because He has something else for us to learn. What the Lord had to teach me had to be learned in the Place of Something Else, because the ultimate work He had for me required testing that could not be learned in the Place of Same. When God takes us to the place of Something Else, we must understand that the work He is doing there is on His timetable, and we learn to rest in that peace.

** We can learn much from Jesus’ encounters with women and from the Women of the Resurrection about our role as women who lead in the church.
Women who lead biblically and boldly:
– Can expect to be criticized.
– Are committed to walk, stay, watch, and wait.
– Are entrusted with proclaiming truth and the radical good news of Jesus to a world that desperately needs to hear it.
– Stay true to God’s purpose for their part in the story.
God has given us a message and a mission and we mustn’t relinquish our part in the story! He has charged us with completing our mission and there is no place for fear, or for remaining comfortable and secure in our religious havens. We must be Resurrection Women!

** As women who lead, we will make mistakes. But if we pay attention, adequately prepare ourselves, and plan well, we can avoid making costly ones. Nehemiah gives us such a great example of leadership, and we would do well to study his life and the story of how God led Him to lead the people to rebuild the wall, and to re-introduce God’s Word to the people of Jerusalem once again. In a nutshell, we see that
1) God had a work for Nehemiah to do for the benefit of His people, and Nehemiah followed God.
2) Satan has a plan to thwart the work of the Lord and often uses the influence of powerful and persuasive people to accomplish his plan.
Nehemiah consistently goes to the Lord immediately in each situation. He is not drawn into relational issues and conflicts that would wrongly influence his direction and take him away from God’s task. He made decisions time and again that reinforced his commitment to the work and courageously led the people to rebuild the wall in 52 days!! He did not allow the wrong people to influence his decision making and God prevailed among His people.

As leaders, we must be ready to expect attacks. If we are to be effective in our leadership as women in the church, we must soak ourselves in the Spirit, through prayer and scripture. We must be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power so that we can stand firm. Not because we want to be in charge, but because we have yielded all power of our own to the All Powerful God. I began this blog series with the title, “Leadership, Women’s Ministry, and What I Discovered When I Stopped Being in Charge.”   I discovered real freedom, real strength, real beauty, and real purpose!  And hey — I’m still learning:)  The Lord has so much for us to do on this earth in His name — let’s come together and help one another accomplish His work together!

“Yes Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for You.  Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.”  ~~  Isaiah 26:8

Woman with shield“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”~~ Ephesians 6:10-11

There are so many lessons in leadership I have learned along the way, and it’s always easy to share the positive, visionary ones.  It’s a little tougher to go back and acknowledge the mistakes, but if we want to grow and develop as women who are strong, capable leaders, we must go back and take another look at some of the more painful, hard lessons we had to learn along the way.

The learning curve for women in leadership, in the church, is a steep one in most cases.  There are various reasons for this, and that is a topic for another day!  Suffice it to say, there are huge challenges for women who lead in the local church, and thankfully, God has given us some great biblical models of women who were strong, pivotal leaders in their time.  If we take time to study these women — Deborah, Esther, Mary-Jesus’ mother, and Mary of Bethany, Lydia, Priscilla – and others, we will do well to take a few leadership lessons from the pages of scripture as we read about their lives and how the Lord used them for His purposes.

Today, I want to talk about the 2 most costly mistakes I made in leadership:

1.  Not being adequately prepared for the battle, therefore making myself vulnerable to attacks.

2.  Allowing myself to be influenced and directed by the wrong people, instead of by God alone.

Today, I’m only going to address the first point:

As leaders we must be ready to EXPECT ATTACKS!  Beth Moore says in “Praying God’s Word”, that the “enemy is filled with fury because he knows his time is short.  Scripture intimates that much of Satan’s fury will be directed specifically toward Christians as the clock ticks closer toward Christ’s return.”  And those who step out to lead are especially in the crossheirs of Satan’s weapons.

Had I fully grasped or anticipated the depth of Satan’s hatred and schemes, I would have spent the majority of my energy and time building up my spiritual and mental strength.  Nehemiah gives us so many great examples and word pictures as he set about to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  First of all, before he ever began the project, he sought the Lord — “For days, I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.  Oh Lord, listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you”.  (Neh. 1:3-5).  And as he began the project, and enlisted the help of the people, he encountered opposition.  “But when Sanballat and Tobiah … heard that the work was going ahead and the gaps in the wall were being repaired, they were furious.  They all made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw us into confusion.  BUT — we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves.”  (Neh. 4:7-9)

In Ephesians 6:10-18, we see Paul’s list of spiritual armor.  Only one of these is an offensive weapon, and it’s the Sword of the Spirit, clearly meaning the Word of God.  Beth Moore says, “I am utterly convinced that the two major weapons with divine power in our warfare are the Word of God and Spirit-empowered prayer.”  This passage in Ephesians implores us to “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”  He begins to list the defensive weapons, and comes to this one: “In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.”

I have read commentaries on this, and the word picture here is one of a wooden shield.  If a fiery arrow hits a wooden shield, it would immediately be set afire and useless.  But prior to battle, the soldiers soaked the wooden shields in water.  They prepared their weapons to extinguish the flames of the arrow as it hit the water-soaked shield.  I like to think of this as spending so much time in prayer, that our lives are completely soaked in the Spirit, and we can withstand the fiery arrows.  Confession: When I was in a leadership position several years ago, I failed to spend the majority of my time and energy as a leader on my knees before the Lord, and fiery arrows came flying.  I was vulnerable to the attacks because alas, I hadn’t soaked my shield–oops!  The devil gained a victory.  But the beautiful thing about this war is that it’s already won and we have a Redeemer who can make all things work together for His glory, to those who He has called.

If we are to be effective in our leadership as women, we must completely grasp and understand the fact that we are entering a war.  And wars are made up of battles.  And the only strategy for winning these battles is being adequately prepared in our defensive weapons and ready to strike the enemy defeating blows with our offensive weapons. Had I not failed to see this clearly, and to prepare both myself, and my team, I could have avoided this costly mistake.  Thankfully, the Lord does not forsake His own, and He is faithful to complete the work He has called us to do, and His hand never leaves our side!  Next week, we’ll look at how to make sure we are surrounding ourselves with a “yes” team — people who say “yes” to God and not to their own agenda.

??????????????????????????????What We Do When our God Dreams are Derailed, Discarded, and Delayed.

15 years ago, I had just had my 3rd son, who was 7 years younger than our 2nd boy.  I was hungry for fellowship with other moms, and my church didn’t have a moms group, so I started attending a moms group at Fellowship Bible in Little Rock.  It just so “happened” that their leadership team still needed a few small group co-leaders and a friend with whom I had served in leadership for several years in Bible Study Fellowship recommended me to serve alongside these dear women in ministry.  

It was during the 3 years I spent observing, listening, and walking alongside these wise Titus 2 women that God planted His dream in my heart and began to stir my soul to pursue this dream.  My calling wasn’t my own idea – my calling came while I was walking among these women, learning what it looks like to live a Titus 2 life.  

I had walked among other Titus 2 women, but these dear ladies gave me a clear example of what it can look like in a structured, God-focused, biblical environment.  My calling became clearer when their women’s ministry director noticed the desire in my heart to lead women in a biblical model and spoke a word over my life, that God had a work for me to do in my own church and community, along with women who desired to live the Titus 2 pattern.  I will never forget the wise teaching I received during this time, and mostly, the daily life example these seasoned, biblical women imprinted on my life.  

Fast forward to 15 years later!  Now – for the rest of the story … well maybe not ALL of it!  Suffice it to say at this point that I spent a good 10 years leading women in my own church, transitioning and establishing a new ministry, and 5 1/2 years ago, God led me out of that role.  More on that later.

I’d like to share an excerpt from the last column I wrote to the women in our church, which included the theme for that year and the heart of what we felt God wanted to see happen among His women.  The theme was “Pull Up a Chair” — it was my heart then and it remains my heart today for women who love the Lord and desire to live biblically as friends, moms, wives, and leaders.  

“PULL UP A CHAIR” (2009)

Many of you may remember the little song we learned in Sunday School, “Friends, friends, friends, . . . I love my friends and they love me, I help my friends and they help me . . . “ As a women’s ministry director, I have been increasingly intrigued in the past few years by the dynamics in the friendships of women. The friends who surround us not only every day, but also in times past, leave a lasting imprint in our lives, shaping and defining who we become. Having grown up with all brothers, their friends, and surrounded now by 3 sons (and their friends!) in my home, I think I appreciate even more, the good girlfriends God has brought into my life. Last week I enjoyed catching up with some dear college friends whom I hadn’t seen in years! The beauty is that our friendship has deepened and matured over time, because it was based in a common love for our Lord and His service. An interesting pastime for me is to consider and observe groups of women friendships around me, of which there are several. I have my own labels for them and a few come to mind, There’s the “fun” group, the “steady” group, the “young things”, the “50-somethings”, and a few more for which I have yet to come up with a name. The most common positive denominator I witness in these women is that they love the Lord and are there for each other. I love to hear stories from some of our “steady” group about the Baptist Women circles from years past, where women came together regularly to share life — before technology, busy-ness, and society’s demands, infiltrated and corrupted the simplicity of life.

As we begin a new year of opportunities to connect … I’d like to share the heart of our Leadership Team. I enjoy and appreciate serving with these great women, and we feel God is desperately drawing us back to relationship – to the patterns of the early church. God has led our team in a unified spirit to establish this year’s theme on the exhortation found in Acts 2:42-47, “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” “And day by day continuing with one mind . . . they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart”. In a small survey taken among a few women in our church, most said they long for a small group in which they could connect and find friendship, a place to belong.  Women – it’s time we all realized that none of us is perfect, we must give up our unrealistic assumptions and expectations and make time to get to know each other and grow each other. We don’t necessarily have it all together, but we know and love the One who holds it all together! And we want our lives to matter for here, for now, and for eternity – together. I invite you to the step out of your comfort zone, out of your lonely zone, seek God and some dear Christians sisters. How about we pull up a chair and sit a while?!? It’s time we got to know one another!”

I’d love to say that’s exactly what happened!  But it didn’t.  Next week, I’ll begin to share what God has been teaching me about women, leadership, but most importantly, what happened when I let go of my dream.

 

 

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