By Stacey Monaco, Crosswalk.com
As a former Director of Women’s Ministry, I hold tight to the conviction that the primary responsibility of my job then, and indeed of my life now, is to equip and empower the woman of God to do God’s work.
If I were directing a women’s leadership teaching, this is point at which I would ask those in attendance to stop and read through the whole of Ephesians 4. If you have five minutes, I think I will ask you to do the same.
There is simply nothing like reading biblical truth to set the stage for a paradigm shift into biblical thinking.
Ephesians 4: 11-12 states that “…Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, that the body of Christ may be built up…”
According to the apostle Paul, who was the author of the letter to the church at Ephesus, God gave his people gifts that are directly intended for the purpose of building the church.
These gifts are manifested as natural and supernatural abilities which were meant to be used to teach, to speak the word of God, to guide and care for others, to be sent out to and to lead those who do not yet know Jesus toward Him. Ephesians 4:12 declares that the distribution of these abilities is “to equip his people for works of service.”
Their primary purpose is one of preparing and empowering the women and men who know Jesus to serve well and build up the church.
Surely, undoubtedly, God has given many gifts to women that he intends to be used to build up his church.
1. Empowering Women for Ministry Is a Biblical Imperative
Paul is beseeching the Ephesian church, and every other follower of Jesus that would ever walk on solid ground, to do those things that most express the honor of being made in the image of God, as well as loved and saved by the Son of God.
Paul’s message is of vital importance; an authoritative urging that is all-inclusive to the woman and man of God, irrespective of gender, age, ethnicity, or any other aspect that might divide the body of Christ. He is compelling all of those who believe in Jesus, both women and men, to honor their salvation by walking worthy of whatever sacred gift Christ himself has given to each of us.
First-century women who encountered Jesus were dignified by being designed in the very image of God, and again by being “saved to the uttermost” by the rich blood of the one true Savior Jesus Christ. Their standing as followers of Christ was not diminished by their womanhood, but in stark contrast to the societal standards of the day, their value was enhanced.
Just as these women found their most true identity in Christ, within the safety and beauty of our redemptive state, we too are able to live in the fullness of our personality and design, leading other women toward the richness of this freedom.
Women are equally and fully given gifts from God intended for the purpose of being strengthened ourselves, and encouraging those we walk alongside to love Jesus, love people well, to serve well, and to lead well.
2. Empowering Women for Ministry Strengthens the Church
In writing to the Ephesians, Paul is seeking to aim the follower of Christ at unity, by encouraging each believer to understand and use our Holy Spirit infused God-given gifts to grow in maturity, build one another up, and strengthen the church.
Empowering women to take up these abilities and function in them with humility and gentleness ensures that the entirety of the church is functioning as intended by Christ.
When the training, leading and commissioning of women within the church is observed as a necessity of obedience to the call of Paul’s words in Ephesians the church has its full bandwidth to serve the needs of the church and a world in need of the gospel. Taken within the context of the entirety of the gospel we can hear the rhythms of the commissioning of Matthew 28:18-20 in every verse.
3. Empowering Women for Ministry Examples Christ to the World
What does empowering women in ministry have to do with the mission and testimony of Jesus to an observing world? We live in a society that enshrines achievement, individuality and competition. As such most of us have been trained to seek to win, as well as to be constantly glancing sideways to compare ourselves to the pace and process of someone else.
As a young unredeemed woman, I saw every woman I encountered as my competition, and I always believed I had to be the best at everything. This mentality carried over into my life as a young Christian woman and caused me to miss out on depth of relationship, on focusing on honing the abilities God had given me, and caused me to believe that success was scarce and I had to “get mine.”
The sideways glance of comparison can cause women to give way to a mind-set of scarcity mentality, in which we begin to believe there is not enough for everyone, and examples to the world a lack of trust in a generous God.
Empowering women to think biblically with regard to leading themselves and others well, and encouraging and giving women opportunity to function in and hone, their God-given gifts at all levels examples the manner in which Jesus dignifies all women.
When women are empowered to lead and encouraged to think biblically about the use of their abilities, they gain a maturity that stands up to the inability to be satisfied in who and what we are, as well as a propensity to be unwilling to build and encourage other women. Think back to Ephesians 4.
The entire purpose of our God-given gifts is so that we might build up the church and other people, rather than stepping on the heads of others to get where we want to go! According to the standards of the world this is upside-down thinking!
To add to the directive of being women who build, we find the beautiful truth that as we seek to use our God-given gifts to build others; we in turn find joy, relationship and a deep sense of purpose and satisfaction. It is the rule of reciprocity.
The “give and it shall be given” of growing and empowering others examples Jesus in a concrete and beautiful manner.
It never diminishes the church to empower women to lead and use their gifts and skills to spread the love of Jesus. Women can stand confident that each of us have a particular purpose and are uniquely designed to fulfill that purpose.
As the church embraces this understanding, and lives in the gospel light of Ephesian 4, we will find that there is great satisfaction in calling out the gifts of a woman, and in helping her to hone and use her unique skills to the building up of the body of Christ.
I recently heard someone say that all those who choose to follow Christ will naturally find themselves leading in some context. We cannot share Jesus well without living lives that lead others toward Him, so whether we are naturally bent toward leadership is of little concern.
We seek to lead well because He leads us well. As Paul so aptly stated, “Follow me as I follow Him.” (1 Cor. 11:1)
Love Jesus. Love Well. Serve Well. Lead Well.
Photo Credit: ©Sparrowstock
Stacey Monaco is the proud mother of six, plus two, and has five grand-one’s ranging from nine years old to two. She has been writing professionally on and off for over thirty-five years, and has a Masters in Christian Leadership from the Talbot School of Theology.