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Published Date: March 5, 2007

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Ordinary People—Extraordinary Advocates

We have all watched as pastors, athletes, and artists use their reputations to advance an important cause. How thankful we are that Bono uses his global popularity to give voice to the suffering of HIV/AIDS victims.

Marketing experts have long understood the importance of engaging opinion leaders—those who have established reputations of respect—to introduce new ideas to a community that values their perspectives. But how many of us realize the influence we might have even without a global reputation? At CBE we see God using everyday people to be voices for the voiceless, even though they may not realize the significance of their advocacy. 

Last year a surprising number of churches and organizations embraced biblical equality. While we may imagine that the decision makers within these groups were influenced by prominent spokespersons, I am certain that they were persuaded by an army of “persistent widows,” who faithfully responded to the promptings of God. At CBE, we are acquainted with several “persistent widows” working to advance biblical equality in their communities and they have been enormously successful. 

Like the persistent widow in Luke (18:1–8), God advances justice through the faithful and tenacious efforts of everyday people. The persistent widows of CBE represent a powerful spiritual force and I thought you might enjoy hearing some of their stories of advocacy; how their ordinary efforts had extraordinary results. Perhaps their examples might encourage you to become a persistent widow for biblical equality in your church. 

Consider Ginger. She does not view herself as an activist. She would not list “opinion leader,” as one of her spiritual gifts. She sees herself as an ordinary mother and grandmother. Yet, her advocacy for biblical equality is profound. It began as she watched her denomination (which gives local churches the authority to place women in positions of leadership) selectively publish articles that advanced a male-only model of leadership. Ginger began a letter-writing ministry, and her letters were infused with the Holy Spirit’s wisdom. Everywhere she turned, she seemed confronted with opportunities to encourage someone to consider the biblical foundations of gift-based ministry. Like the persistent widow in Luke 18, Ginger encountered many hard hearts, until one day one of her letters reached a heart that was softened by God. Here is what happened.

Ginger and her husband discovered that a ministry they support—a Christian outreach to a secular university, held a lecture that advanced a male-only model of leadership. Ginger could have easily given up in discouragement. Yet, like the persistent widow, she wrote another letter encouraging this ministry to offer an egalitarian viewpoint. That led to a dialogue over lunch where the decision was made to provide the biblical egalitarian perspective. The lecture was held, and some people became open to the egalitarian model, including the CEO of the organization! Ginger’s persistence led to significant advances for biblical equality and gender justice.

Consider also a woman we’ll call Rachel. She was raised in the hub of a close Christian community and was childhood friends with someone who later became a leader of a large Christian Church. This Church offers leadership only to men. Rachel felt prompted by God to suggest to her friend that he read articles on CBE’s website. He read our materials and wrote to Rachel thanking her for the challenge. He found the egalitarian position had much biblical merit. He had an open mind and their long-standing friendship meant he trusted her walk with Christ, her motives and her intellect. She was just the right advocate for biblical equality in his life.

Consider also John, let’s call him. John has invested years in teaching a weekly Bible study in a large church that currently does not endorse women leaders. Yet, week after week, John is a voice in the wilderness, crying to those who will listen. And, each year he reaches a few open hearts. He is tenacious, waiting for just the right moment to interject biblical equality into a conversation. God continues to infuse his faithful efforts with small but steady results. 

What do these people have in common? They are close to God. They are persistent—they preach the Word in and out of season. While they leave the results with God, they look for, and seize opportunities for advocacy. They believe that our faithful and just God will produce a rich harvest of justice for Christ’s kingdom. And what a harvest we are reaping!