Raising the Value of Women in Your Church
Raising the Value of Women in Your Church
Posted on: May 5, 2011
We’ve all used this term to describe the most special moments of life: marriage, the birth of a child or grandchild, a college graduation, buying a new car or a new home, or getting a new job. Looking back over these highlights in my own life (and recently experiencing the death of my father), I have determined that life itself is priceless.
It’s easy to regard life as priceless, yet just as easy for us to decrease the value of certain individuals. Many people today suffer from low self-esteem because of difficult experiences in life. In some cases, people are actually labeled mistakes or failures.
The world is full of devalued people, and women suffer most from this devaluation. Women make up over half of the world’s population—yet in many cultures they are oppressed, marginalized, abused and horribly mistreated. Even in the United States, where women enjoy equal civil rights, countless women suffer from depression, domestic violence, sexual abuse and neglect.
No wonder women struggle to know who they really are! They have never heard the truth—that they are valuable because they were created in the very image of the Creator of the universe.
When Jesus walked this earth, He restored the dignity of women. He even allowed His women followers to be the first witnesses of His resurrection. And when Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit upon the church on the day of Pentecost, He empowered both the sons and the daughters to prophesy (see Acts 2:17-18).
Today, the Christian community can make a huge difference if we will truly convey the heart of Jesus to women. What an awesome responsibility the Father has given us!
The issues women face today are numerous. Countless women around the world suffer from an identity crisis. They struggle to discover who they are and where they fit in their families, in their communities and in their churches.
In the developing world, many women fight to feed themselves and their children. They wrestle with the knowledge that their only value is as a bearer of sons. They weep as their daughters are left to die, and they struggle in a patriarchal society where genital mutilation and rape are their lots in life.
In some countries in the Middle East, women are not allowed to drive or walk down the street without a male relative. In other places, women risk the threat of violence every time they walk outdoors. In some countries, women are expected to earn the family’s income while their husbands squander it drinking alcohol all day.
In the Western world, many women have careers, yet they often receive less pay even when working the same jobs as men. In addition, many women have fewer opportunities for advancement. Even while pursuing their careers, most continue to manage the bulk of the childrearing responsibilities and daily household tasks inside the home.
The pace of living such a lifestyle leaves women exhausted, disillusioned and frustrated with life in general. They struggle with the delicate balance of meeting the needs of their families, their careers, and their own personal expectations. Many are confused about who they are, what they should do and how to behave responsibly in their environment.
On every inhabited continent, there are women who do not realize their value or worth. Their issues are different, but their questions are universal in nature. In her book The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules, author Carolyn Custis James says most women are asking these questions:
• Are my efforts less important because I’m a woman?
• Where do I fit in God’s purposes?
• Do I have a calling?
• Has my usefulness expired?
Women often don’t really understand their potential, the unique contribution they can make in this generation, or their place as bearers of Christ’s image to the world. Every woman struggles with these issues, whether she is an executive in the corporate arena earning a six-figure salary, a stay-at-home mom with a tenth-grade education, or a childless widow in East Africa. However, God did not create woman as an afterthought; she is an integral part of His plan in creation.
The Bible affirms God’s love and goodness toward women, showing repeatedly how His kingdom is moving forward through the efforts of ordinary women. The truth is powerful: Women are valuable!
Breaking Traditional Mindsets
Scientists have calculated how much each of the enzymes and hormones in a woman’s body are worth. One author added these up and determined that an average size woman is worth $6,000,015.44, more or less, based on her weight. (Some of us are worth more!) Women are indeed valuable!
We, as a church, must start intentionally spreading this important truth. It is time to open our eyes to the value of the women around us, not just because of how they serve the body of Christ, but because they are a part of the body. God’s image resides in them. It is time for our perception to change! He created each woman and man for Kingdom purposes.
When Jesus talked with the woman at the well in Samaria, she said, “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet” (John 4:19). Not until she was willing to receive Him as a prophet could she receive from Him what He could give. Honor involves recognizing the true value of a person or thing. When we fail to recognize the gifts and talents of women, and give them the honor they deserve, we fail to receive the benefits that they bring to the body of Christ.
I believe Christian men play a vital role in the restoration of the lost value of women. They must begin to honor women again. I love the way author Lisa Bevere says it in her new book Lioness Arising: “It’s time to realize that men aren’t the problem, but they can and should be part of the answer. Something dynamic happens when men shoulder some of the load of the restoration of dignity and power alongside the women.”
Women are vital to the Kingdom. How, then, does the church help women realize their potential and release them into ministry? For years, women have carried the bulk of the work done behind the scenes in local churches (child care, food preparation, church cleaning and administrative work, for example), yet they have been passed over when it comes to visible leadership roles.
Carolyn Custis James says in her book, Lost Women of the Bible, that the devaluation of women has caused many of them to leave the faith. “A wave of talented women who are valued and sought out in the workplace for their training, expertise, and leadership skills are walking away from the church because it seems so uninviting to them,” she writes. “Tragically, the message they’re picking up is that the church will clip their wings and has nothing hopeful to offer them.”
This has been a subject of great controversy in the church world, and it certainly won’t be resolved in this article. Through the years, there have been churches that release women to ministry and others that forbid them to enter any public ministry. In this regard, I am thankful for the support of my husband and the International Pentecostal Holiness Church—which has a rich history of ordaining and affirming women ministers.
Yet, in spite of the fact that our denomination affirms the idea of women in ministry, this principle is not always practiced. For many years, I worked primarily in the background as a pastor’s wife and mother of our children. The churches we pastored gave me liberty, but I was consumed with taking care of my family.
Besides, I never really fit the typical “pastor’s wife” mold. I didn’t sing and play the piano, and I wasn’t ashamed of my musical shortcomings! In fact, I sought other ways to partner with my husband in the work of the ministry. At every turn, he was there encouraging me to be what God intended.
As time progressed, ministry opportunities began to present themselves. From the time our children could comprehend English, I taught them the stories of the Bible. I taught vacation Bible school, Sunday school classes and special youth services. While I attended a South Carolina Conference camp meeting, God spoke to me in one of the morning services and said, “Feed my lambs.”
I was unsure what that meant, but I agreed to do whatever He desired. Over the next eight years, God moved me into a leadership role with girls’ ministry and eventually placed me into position as Women’s Ministries director for my conference. I served in that role for 11 years.
During that season, I saw countless women become licensed and ordained ministers, including my own two daughters. Many became senior pastors. At women’s conferences, which attracted 700 to 800 in attendance, my goal was to break old paradigms and bridge the gap between the former generation and the next generation.
Many women were set free and began to embrace the calling to be vessels God could use to reach their generation. As these women began to realize their self-worth and understand that God valued them for who they were, they began to get more involved in the ministries of their local churches.
Congregations that were once locked into traditionalism—and totally blind to the gifts and abilities God has placed within women—began to release and encourage their women in ministry. They tapped into a dynamic that began to revolutionize entire congregations. When you set women free, the freedom becomes contagious and affects everyone else!
Abolitionist Harriet Tubman said this when she crossed the line to freedom: “I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.” In his book Understanding the Purpose and Power of Woman, Bahamian preacher Myles Munroe says many women feel the same way Tubman felt about her leadership abilities. They need others to help them navigate the new territory that God has opened to them.
Ed Silvoso, founder of Harvest Evangelism, calls women “God’s secret weapons that He is using in the harvest in these last days.” The Bible gives numerous examples of women, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, who carried spiritual authority and had great influence. Miriam, Deborah, Ruth, Esther, Mary Magdalene, Priscilla and Phoebe are just a few examples. These women were strategically involved in the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom.
Throughout the history of the church, God has raised up other mighty women who were not content to serve in traditional roles, from the women martyrs of the New Testament church; to missionaries such as Gladys Aylward, Mary Slessor and Amy Carmichael; to evangelistic pioneers such as Catherine Booth and Phoebe Palmer; to Pentecostal firebrands such as Aimee Semple McPherson and Kathryn Kuhlman. With every outpouring of the Spirit, God has always raised the value of women!
I pray that in this new season of the church, we will do everything possible to set women free and empower them for service. My prayer is that God will help us to receive the women through whom He is working in our day. I pray He will help us declare the value He has placed upon women and release them to do the work of the Lord.
The great task of world evangelism cannot be accomplished alone. Men and women must be partners in this great mission. Let’s extend His kingdom together!
BIO: Tamé Lambert is director of Women’s Ministries for the IPHC. She and her husband, Jimmy, live in Oklahoma City. Their two daughters, Tracy and Kristen, are in ministry. Their son Trey is a student at Southwestern Christian University.
This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of IPHC Experience magazine.