Updated: Aug 1
This blogpost is inspired by a text I received from a woman this morning @ 6:33 am. I was compelled to write this, this morning. Much love to you sister. My heart is with you.
I’ve often wondered what it feels like for my gifts and calling to be immediately accepted with joy and excitement. I know that if I were to say, “I am a singer (which I am – but It’s not my season to be singing) I would love to sing in the choir or on the praise team”, they would make room for my singing gift. And I am absolutely sure that if I said, “My heart is for the next generation (which it is) I want to serve in the children’s ministry, or with the youth, there is no doubt the response would be with enthusiasm, “well after the background check”, come join us! Or if I said, “I love to cook”, I would be introduced to the person over the kitchen and if aprons were handed out, I would receive one. And there is no doubt that if I said, “my gift is hospitality, I want to be a greeter or an usher” that I would be greeted with open arms and handed a name tag and assigned a section where I could help someone find their seat.
When I share with Pastors and leaders that I have graduated from seminary, I have a Masters in Spiritual Formation and one in Christian leadership and then I go on to say that my heart is for designing disciple making processes and developing leaders to become spiritually mature rarely is the response, “I want you on our team!”
I have tried waiting before disclosing my experiences and education so that I don’t appear “prideful or arrogant”, and I have tried sharing about my seminary training and my heart for making disciples almost immediately so that it doesn’t appear that I am just “sitting on my gifts” and although there may be a bit of conversation, it has been very rare that I have been invited to the table.
As a matter of fact, one Pastor said, “I’m just trying to figure out where you fit.” Another one said, “How are you going to do those things and handle your responsibilities as a wife and mother?” Another one said, “The reason you make people nervous when you come to church is because you are a prophet.” And one Pastor wanted to meet with me behind closed doors to hear my ideas, but he wanted to be the one to execute them publicly this was before I was a consultant. And then, there are male children in elementary, middle, and high school who can freely use their gifts in a church where women cannot, simply because they are male. These children are preaching, teaching and being ordained while adult women must sit in pews and recite, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” John 15:18.
There is the story of an African American seminary graduate who had been serving in a “white” congregation while attending seminary. When she expressed that she had a heart for racial reconciliation and shared her ideas about what was needed not only in the world, but in that church to make African Americans like herself feel welcomed and not invisible, she was not seen, nor heard. As a matter of fact, what she experienced was a lead Pastor responding as someone who was a racist. The place where she should have felt safe, was not a safe place for her. She had to shake the dust off her feet and take her gift(s) of leadership, shepherding, teaching, and her heart to plant a multiracial church with her. “And Jesus was able to do very little miracles there because of their lack of faith.” (Matthew 13:58).
I am starting to wonder if the "four walled" church is a new mission field, where those of us who are called, who have believed the message that we are to “go and make disciples”, and who are rejected, must use the same strategies we use to reach the unchurched, inside the church.
Why? Because just like the unchurched what we have to say, and what we have to offer will not be easily accepted within the four walls of the church.
What I have found is that these experiences generally happen to women. So, it's the message that isn’t accepted because of the gender of the messenger. And so many women are finding themselves within the four walls of the church reciting the scripture from John 15:18 to overcome their feelings of rejection, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Therefore, it's necessary to cultivate transformative environments within the four walls of the church. so the church will be a safe place for everyone, a place where there is a kingdom-centered disciple- making process, innovative teams are formed, and it is a community where everyone has a sense of belonging. Without those key components, the church will become a new mission field and it will not be a safe place for the unbeliever or the Christian disciple. Let's make sure the church is safe today and in the future.
We can do it!