Some of the most powerful words in all of Scripture directed the evangelism of women. As they discovered the empty tomb on Easter, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women heard the most important words in all of history: “…he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” (Luke 24:6-7, TNIV). Jesus told Mary Magdalene to tell the brothers that he was “returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). And, Mary was faithful to follow Jesus’ request. She went to the male disciples with the news, that she had seen the risen Lord. Mary’s testimony was received as the first eye-witness account of Christ’s resurrection. Because of this, the Catholic church refers to Mary Magdalene as the apostle to the apostles.
From this point onward women have been prominent missionaries, making disciples throughout the world despite lack of support from the church. Scripture offers abundant witness to women who served as emissaries of the gospel. Scripture also offers the theological foundations for women’s shared service with men in making disciples throughout the world. In fact, what distinguishes evangelical history is the importance we place on evangelism and missions. Thus evangelical women were leaders in the largest expanse of Christian faith of all time—during the Golden Era of missions. Evangelicals in the 1800s were among the first to offer a biblical foundation for gift-based rather than gender-based ministry, a history that continues to enrich our world.
We plan to celebrate the history of missionaries and the gospel-partnerships of women and men just as we will also explore the biblical and theological foundations for their service together during our conference this summer. The time has come for the whole church, to take the whole gospel to the whole world!