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Published Date: September 5, 2009

Published Date: September 5, 2009

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But How Can We Be Effective?

“The worship pastor there is full of the Holy Spirit. She is so gifted at what she is doing.” A group of young adults from my new church sat in a local Chinese restaurant, listening to our friend and pastor describe his recent visit to a nearby worship service. Another friend expressed out loud what I was thinking: “Wait, what denomination did you say the church belongs to? And they have a woman pastor?”

Not exactly, he explained. The woman does not actually hold the title “pastor” and is instead referred to as a “ministry associate.” For all functional purposes, though, she is the church’s worship pastor. Then, seeming a bit uncertain, he turned to me, the egalitarian. “What do you think about that, Megan?” He asked it with kind curiosity and with a genuine interest in my thoughts. But as the entire table of people stared at me, I felt my cheeks burning while I quickly determined how to phrase my answer.

“Well, I understand that we are all on a journey when it comes to this issue, so I guess I am encouraged that at least she is allowed to use the gifts God has given her.” I was being careful, perhaps too tentative. So then I blurted, “But often when this happens, the woman is compensated differently than if a man held the position. And that is, quite simply, unjust!” I heard my voice ringing out a bit too loudly as I finished with a few more passionate comments and studied my new friends’ faces for their reactions.

My pastor nodded kindly and respectfully, and the group moved on to another topic. Another friend at the table gave me a small, knowing smile. But I needed a moment to catch my breath, or at least a moment for my cheeks to recover from their near purple shade at being singled out so suddenly. 

Thanks to my “big mouth” (or perhaps thanks to the prompting of the Holy Spirit), within the first few weeks of attending my church, I had established myself as someone with strong—very strong—convictions about gender and ministry. This particular situation in the restaurant was just one of many opportunities to share my beliefs. I am grateful for those opportunities and am humbled that my new church family listens to and values my opinions. And there are times when I want and feel the need to speak up, times when I know that God is using me, challenging me to not be silent. 

But at the same time, I am hesitant to accept the call wholeheartedly. I’m not sure that I like being so conspicuous, being known as the person who always has something to say on the matter, the person who is never quite satisfied with how things are. I don’t want to be (or be seen as) the angry one, the “feminist,” the radical, or the person who will relentlessly push this issue even when it threatens the perceived unity and health of the church. 

From my conversations with CBE members regarding their experiences in their churches, I think that many can relate to my feelings. We desire for change to occur, and something deep within us stirs when we witness the church missing opportunities to utilize the gifts of women. We may be certain that our passion for biblical equality is God-given, and therefore, that we have an obligation to work for what we know to be true. Yet, being a change agent is certainly not a comfortable calling, nor is it one that we should step into lightly or without much prayer and reflection. And even if we are assured that God desires us to work for change and we are able to overcome our own insecurities and desires for comfort, the big question remains: “But how can we be effective?”

As experienced change agent Joan Flikkema shares in her article that follows, there are no simple blueprints for what will work to bring change in every church. Yet it is helpful to examine the practical models that have worked for others, and to celebrate those individuals who were used by God to bring about great changes on behalf of Christ’s kingdom. This is why I am so enthusiastic about this issue of Mutuality on “Effective Change Agents.” 

We pray that the practical insights and the examples of change agents that are highlighted in this issue will be of encouragement to you in your important work for biblical equality. Be sure to read John Kohlenberger’s article on Jesus, the ultimate change agent, as well as Estrelda Alexander’s article on Holiness and Pentecostal women leaders who used their gifts to transform the world for Christ. Finally, be sure to read Jane Spriggs’ refreshing interview with theologian Scot McKnight.

As always, we would love to hear your comments and suggestions. Many blessings to you as you read and reflect!

Three women smiling at the camera, each is holding a present.

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