Culture

May 08 2013
55

 

This thing has happened lately, and every single time it leaves me bumbling and fumbling and overwhelmed. A male pastor, in his 60s at least, attends a conference I’m teaching at, finds me afterward, and says something like:

“I am so moved by what you said. Will you pray for me?”

“I read a book you wrote, and it has changed our entire church because it changed me.”

“What do you think I should do about _______? How should I lead?”

Then, normally pretty composed, I get choked up and awkward and over-emote and act weirdly inappropriate like try to hold their hands or put my head on their shoulders. Not at all creepy.

I cannot explain how this moves me. First of all, the girl thing. These leaders are from a generation where women did not preach or speak at pastors’ conferences or advise men spiritually or write books they read. Men were at the helm, and women simply didn’t have a seat at the table. This paradigm comprised the majority of their ministry careers, unlike the young bucks who are more accustomed to leading alongside women.

photo

44444_4619305039963_1525194187_n

The humble nature of these men my dad’s age, offering me gracious respect with teachable spirits just leaves me undone. I am so challenged by their humility and can’t help but contrast my fire and flash. This deference to the kingdom, treasuring it through whomever it rises, resisting the instinct to elevate an authority dispute, has changed me. Ironically, it hasn’t made me power drunk and proud like the fear rhetoric suggests but more tender, softer, bowed by humility, committed to imitating my brothers in Christ. (It also makes me want to hold their hands evidently. I don’t know. Thank you for understanding.)

In the spirit of these pastors, to the groups, coalitions, denominations, movements, those who practice dissimilar theology or understand God in unfamiliar ways or follow Jesus differently than I do: Please forgive me for prioritizing your labels over your value. That is polarizing and tends to make a straw man out of the extreme factions of any given ideology. We are more nuanced than our most vocal representatives make our tribes out to be. I am overly compassionate to the spiritually disoriented and unfairly critical of those under the steeples. We needn’t be unanimous in the Body of Christ when we’re all redeemed by the same mercy. I might not agree with your every position, but neither must I disagree simply to mark my own territory.

May I, too, celebrate the gospel wherever it rises. None of us will get all this right; better to herald the common places and extend the benefit of the doubt. God’s fingerprint is everywhere; none of us own the rights to His endorsement. If a believer on the opposite end of the ideological spectrum says something good and true, may I say without hesitation, “Amen.” I’m often afraid to identify with certain people lest I be labeled with their brand, but that is foolishness. The gospel is always beautiful, and I am not in singular possession of its power. That is so arrogant. May I bend my knee to Jesus wherever and in whomever He reigns.

Secondly, I lean hard on the church because I love her. My generation and those after me are walking away, so I bang the drum, wave my arms, jump up and down with wild eyes and constantly push. I stand in front of these men and trot out sobering statistics and urge us to reimagine old forms and beg us to stop doing a bunch of crappy stuff we do. I’m not gentle like John; I’m abrasive like Isaiah. It must be a nightmare for these people. I’m like the least favorite speaker on the docket, and hearing how the church is losing ground is painful for men who’ve logged the last 30 years in the pulpit.

So to hear these pastors my dad’s age tell me they are listening and how their congregation gave their shoes away on Easter and cancelled stale programs and altered their entire trajectory toward serving their community… I.just.cannot.even. Here is where words fail me. Reimaging the kingdom after this long is nothing short of heroic. Will I stand in front of an aggressive teacher half my age challenging long-held values and pushing on my role one day and still be teachable? Can I even do that now? Or have I burrowed so deeply into my pet perspectives that I cannot be led anew?

I can only imagine how the next few generations will evaluate the church we are leading one day. We don’t even know what we don’t know. We are doing the best with what we know, exactly like all the leaders who came before us. Plenty of our practices will come under scrutiny one day, as well they should. Culture will continue to shift and our wineskins will become brittle, though they were once new. And despite the changing methods, Jesus will remain, and these brothers have led me toward humility, to treasure the kingdom over the constructs, not just 30 years from now but also this very day.

Love for the truth can so easily become arrogance. It is shockingly simple to lose the thread. For times I’ve disparaged old forms without honoring the faithful Christ-followers who shouldered the church in their generation, please forgive me. Your leadership raised me to love Jesus. I will certainly get a dose of my own medicine one day, and if I am half as humble and tender as you are, it will be a miracle. Oh that your wisdom would leach down into my fiery, zealous heart.

Yes, you know I value prophecy and believe the church needs to acknowledge some cold hard facts. Yes, courageous truth-speakers are ever needed and the state of the Bride requires urgent boldness. But perhaps what will transform the Body most is an influx of humility, reaching across party lines and gender barriers and denominational affiliations and theological debates and generations and preferences, and lock hands with one another, celebrating the gospel wherever it rises.

And if you’re a 63-year-old pastor who tells me you’ve read a book of mine and are reupping for the kingdom, don’t be alarmed if I grab your hand and sob on your shoulder. I’m just a passionate 38-year-old woman who hasn’t mastered her emotions yet. One day, Lord willing, I’ll be an incredible as you.

 

55 comments

  1. Billie

    Just beautiful. If we could just realize the strength and power there is in unity. We all have different gifts and callings. We should not let what is different about us divide us. Instead, we should celebrate and support each others burdens and passions rather than tearing each other down because we don’t share the same perspectives. When we see that what brings us together is so much more powerful than what divides us, the spreading of the gospel would not be stopped! Love you, Jen!

    Reply
  2. Elizabeth

    Wow – beautifully written and very challenging.
    Thanks, Jen.

    Reply
  3. ro elliott

    I love it all…but especially this…”But perhaps what will transform the Body most is an influx of humility, reaching across party lines and gender barriers and denominational affiliations and theological debates and generations and preferences, and lock hands with one another, celebrating the gospel wherever it rises.”

    I have focused too long on what separated us….not what we had in common…and most of us who are following Christ have way more in common than we do differences…by His Mercy and Grace…I am learning to celebrate His Body.

    Reply
  4. This convicted me. In a very needed way. Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Amy

    Amen and Amen…from a 41 yr old who hasn’t mastered her emotions yet either. :) Thankful for the Grace of God that continues to mercifully lead us and teach us. Thank you for writing this…couldn’t agree more.

    Reply
  6. “If a believer on the opposite end of the ideological spectrum says something good and true, may I say without hesitation, “Amen.””
    YES! :)

    Reply
  7. I love.love.love. everything about this post. So much truth…actual words to express my heartfelt agreement escape me. It definitely hit home…to say the least.

    Reply
  8. OMG I can finally comment on something you’ve written! (sorry but your blog hates me) Sometimes it’s all I can do to practice patience and offer grace to those in my church who cannot reimagine the kingdom. But let’s not desert them in our arrogance! May I always remain teachable and humble.

    Reply
  9. Lindsey

    What’s opposite of a noisy gong or clanging cymbal? THIS. Thank you. Beautiful and prophetic in its own right.

    Reply
  10. Amazing. So true.

    Reply
  11. Loved this, Jen. Nailed it.

    Reply
  12. Holly

    I absolutely love this and I can’t say that about all your work. Its just hard for me to slam the church even when I know it’s doing things wrong because I know the people at the helm of small churches. They are pouring their lives out for it and they truly, truly believe they are doing what is best for their flock.

    Reply
  13. Gwyn

    “We are more nuanced than our most vocal representatives make our tribes out to be.”
    “I’m often afraid to identify with certain people lest I be labeled with their brand, but that is foolishness.”

    Amen Amen Amen! These are things I very much need to be reminded of.

    Reply
  14. Preach it sister, we need movers and shakers and humble teachers and those who are teachable. I too have stood in pastors offices and said ‘this is not what my God would want’…only I was not heard I was asked to leave. “We have nothing here for you.” so I dusted off my feet and moved on.
    The discerning spirit left with me and we found another place to call home.
    Continue to teach and tell and share so long as God stirs your heart.
    It is good and powerful. To all involved.

    Reply
  15. “Lean hard.” Yes. Yes.

    Reply
  16. All of this! A to the men!

    Reply
  17. “have I burrowed so deeply into my pet perspectives that I cannot be led anew?” oh, i long for this, to remain teachable and not so set in my ways that i cannot hear Wisdom whisper. fabulous, jen. let it be.

    Reply
  18. This is just beautiful, and such a needed message for all of us. So right: we don’t even know what we don’t know… but Jesus remains. Amen, sister.

    Reply
  19. Megan

    Beautiful.

    Reply
  20. Erin

    oh Jen, thank you so much for this. giddy to hear of your recent experience and pray it inspires and ignites others to do the same for the sake of the GOSPEL, not politics. you nailed it — took the words right out of my mouth, yet again :)

    Reply
  21. I tried to share a few favorite lines of this post and the next thing I’d highlighted the whole thing.

    This is my favorite. All of it.

    Reply
  22. Tracy

    Jen, this was so perfect and beautiful – just what I needed to hear today. Thank you!!

    Reply
  23. Simply beautiful! Based upon this post I would say we are a lot a like and that doesn’t include us being women and me only 2 years older. I have the fiery preaching down but could learn some humility myself.

    Reply
  24. Ramona Bishop

    Jen,
    I love you even more after reading this post. I’ve been drawn to you by your sense of humor and your heart for God and the downtrodden in this life. But I’m an old fashioned girl. I was raised in the church and I love the church. I’m not ready to trash the authority of men in the church or the need to uphold sound doctrine. I still like a good hymn now and then and would prefer not to sit in a dark church and have my ears pounded by the music, but that’s where I am. Its been hard sometimes to endure the marginalization I have found in the church and with the next geners that are currently leading. I’ve been labeled old way before my time and it makes me sad. So this post helps so much. I pray that all of us will respond with humility toward each other as we seek to follow Christ and change the world together. Thank you for your honesty, your authenticity and your tenderness, even if it is creepy sometimes! :)

    Reply
  25. Angie

    I wish I could hold your hand right now! Also, can we be best friends?! (Not awkward, at all!)

    You rock my world with most every post. I want to be just like you when I grow up. Also, I’m 10 years your senior. You want to hold my hand, too now, don’t you?! :)

    Reply
  26. My dear sister…I hope you never “master” your emotions…they express His beautiful hand in creating you just as you are…gifted uniquely and clothed in righteousness, humility, kindness, compassion, self-control, etc. If it is a measure of self-control you desire…I am with you and it will come as He matures you into how He already sees you. Thanks for this beautiful piece from your heart. May it penetrate hearts and minds for His glory.

    Reply
  27. Beautiful! I love seeing the Body of Christ come together. My favorite line in the blog is, “I might not agree with your every position, but neither must I disagree simply to mark my own territory.” Its so true!!! Thank you so much for this post! Loved it!

    Reply
  28. Yes! Yes! and AMEN!
    Sharing this!

    Reply
  29. Bethany

    Thanks, this is wonderful. Great to use your words for bridge-building and unity. I too love our messy church, and I believe that God is doing some muuuuuch needed and painful pruning. Boy howdy, we’re going to be beautiful when we finally blossom again! :)

    Reply
  30. LOVE this statement! “Yes, courageous truth-speakers are ever needed and the state of the Bride requires urgent boldness. But perhaps what will transform the Body most is an influx of humility, reaching across party lines and gender barriers and denominational affiliations and theological debates and generations and preferences, and lock hands with one another, celebrating the gospel wherever it rises.”

    We are all about unity and it starts in marriages, then the local church, then across the kingdom at large. We will look for a opportunity to see you in person! You go, our sister!!

    Reply
  31. Your conviction, passion, and humbleness is radiant worship splashed across the page, Jen. It’s remarkable. The grace just explodes. And I nearly cry over it all. The truth and the grace.

    Reply
  32. Kay

    As a new Christian, I find myself soaking up all that I can and the more I dive in, the more confused I get. Jesus turned water into wine, however don’t do anything that would cause your “brother” to stumble. There are great, Godly women (such as yourself!!) doing amazing things to further God’s purpose/plan, yet it says in 1 Timothy 2:12 says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first then Eve and Adam was not deceived. But, the woman who was deceived then became a transgressor.” So in the case of the latter, based on your blog post, I am genuinely confused about the “traditional” preaching of only men at the pulpit vs women now also as preachers and what the Bible says…

    Reply
    • Jeremy

      Kay — it is certainly a difficult teaching to accept (that women should not be pastors) in our culture. At the end of the day, though, it is a good test of what you do when you bump up against something in Scripture that conflicts with what you would naturally think — do you humbly bow before Scripture, or do you cling to your own viewpoint and insist the Bible must be wrong?

      Although I did appreciate most of this post, that is what concerned me a bit, the hint that “humility” involves ignoring Biblical teaching if that teaching creates division. Some teachings necessarily create division. Our God is absolutely holy, and has set up guidelines about how we must approach Him in worship. To ignore those guidelines in favor of “treasuring wherever it rises” is to make the same mistake for which Nadab and Abihu were killed (Leviticus 10).

      It is a very hard thing to balance critical Biblical thinking with teachability and compassion. But it is a balance that must be struck; focusing only on one to the exclusion of the other is stifling, both individually and as the Church at large.

      Reply
      • Kay

        Very well stated, thank you!

        Reply
    • Joy

      Kay, I’m an “old” Christian and I still struggle with those teachings. I’ve been taught by some who take it literally into this day and age and then by some who believe it was speaking specifically to the women and men of that time. That time when women were not educated and there were problems of prostitution in the church and men were being led astray. Personally, I prefer to serve in a church where the pastor is a man, but, I love being taught by Beth Moore and many other women who have been called to specific women’s ministries. I always fall back on the fact that God used women all throughout history to spread the word. All of them were submissive to the authority of the man though. I don’t know if this helped or confused you even more. I just wanted you to know that even those of us who grew up as preachers kids don’t have it all figured out either. Believe God no matter what.

      Reply
      • Kay

        Thanks for taking the time to share… Glad I’m not the only one perplexed by what seems both fine and contradictory at the same time :)

        Reply
  33. Juli Gabehart

    Oh, how I love your heart. Can I hold your hand while I cry this out? I think this is EXACTLY what the love of Jesus would say to us if we all had our eyes open instead of our hearts locked down. You say things with an apparent lack of fear and inhibition that I’m so jealous of! (Note to self: Quit being such a weenie and step out with Jesus!)

    Reply
  34. Mike Gaddie

    Hey Jen,

    You ROCK sista!!!! Sorta bummed there are not more dudes celebrating your words, heart, passion, and humility here. Never give up the emotions you share. I’ve always said, I got a bit of a problem with people who don’t leak a little.

    From another brother in Christ.

    Reply
  35. Agnes

    True grace is shown by example, not explained. Gorgeous, love EVERY BIT of it.

    Reply
  36. Agnes

    PS not creepy at all that you’d want to hold their hands. I would too! :)

    Reply
  37. You are my Auntie Jen, and I love you so much. My soul is refreshed by your voice that echoes the heart of Christ. Thank you.

    Reply
  38. Jorie

    Amazing post.
    amazing as well that you are finding God’s men who are willing to listen and who are willing to reimagine the kingdom work we do as the body of Christ. I dont see that at all where I live.

    Reply
  39. Oh.My.Goodness. You leave those lovely words on my post – and then you write this glorious thing?? Thank you so much. Yes, humility is needed – and love reaching past generational and interpretive differences. This is just so lovely, Jen. Thank you.

    Reply
  40. Our Father be praised for this beautifully written article. Indeed, new wine for new wineskins. New wine from the Master’s vineyard.

    Reply
  41. Every time, you speak my language. I am coming from CT to hear you speak in Maryland and I just. can’t. wait!

    Reply
  42. Suzanne Burden

    Both painful and beautiful in the reading, as memories rise while words soak deep. Thank you for reminding us to value the kingdom over the constructs…and do not be afraid to let the tears fall to the glory of our King!

    Reply
  43. Julie B

    You have completely stomped all over my toes and i’m so thankful for it. Letting go of how i think others should celebrate or live out the gospel is hard work and has to be done over and over. Pride is like kudzu on the heart.

    Reply
    • Lacey

      Jen, I am grateful to tears for this. Thank you. Like you, I am a woman, a leader (albeit in very small ways), who values prophecy and desperately longs for the Bride to be all she truly is in the eyes of her Groom. I work daily in the realm of the 63-year-old pastor, the men who have labored their whole lives and cannot understand why the kingdom is crumbling and where all the fruit has gone. It breaks my heart, and I struggle to reconcile the reality of the Kingdom I know with what I see around me. I have drawn every angry conclusion and made every hurtful judgement, only to arrive in the same place as you. It is good to know I am not alone in that journey.

      Reply

Leave a Comment