How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent. As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’…Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Rom. 10:14–17 TNIV)
It is with great excitement that CBE joins pastors, missionaries, and scholars in hosting an international symposium on gender and missions in Toronto, July 18–20, 2008. Our joy in convening this event is uncontainable as we consider the importance of gift-based ministry in advancing the Gospel. The history of missions is filled with story after story of God gifting people, not according to human expectations or prejudice, but according to the pleasure and purposes that belong solely to God.
Even a shallow glance at church history shows that God pours his Spirit out on men and women alike, equipping them as missionaries, prophets, apostles, teachers, and evangelists. Clearly the gifts of the Spirit come in pink and blue, yellow, red, black and white.
The gender and ethnic diversity of missions is most keenly observed during revival movements such as the largest expansion of Christian faith—during the Modern Missionary Movement. During this era Christians around the globe expected Christ’s rapid return. Because of this, gender and ethnicity became secondary to that high calling of the Great Commission.
The vast number of women missionaries working in inner cities and in distant and dangerous locations captured the fascination of the secular press who eagerly documented their challenges and achievements. Even the Bible schools that trained these women proudly published their gospel service. The gift-based ministry of these women reveals God’s favor working through their faith and courage to follow God’s call, despite human prejudice and opposition.
Consider the work of Gladys Aylward (1904–1970). During a revival meeting in London, she passionately devoted her life to Christ and committed her life to service in China. However, because her family was poor and her education was minimal, Gladys’ application was rejected by London China Inland Missions. But this small tenacious woman refused to give up. She saved enough funds for train travel to Yangchen, where she and another missionary opened an inn. After dinner each evening, they regaled travelers with stories about Jesus, and their gospel message entertained and attracted many visitors.
Though considered unsuitable for missionary service, Gladys Aylward’s achievements in China are amazing. She orchestrated sweeping prison reform and she cared for one hundred abandoned children. For twelve days Gladys led these children over the mountains to safety when hostile forces invaded her region. In recognition of her service, the Chinese gave her the name Ai-weh-deh—艾偉德—which means virtuous one.
There are thousands more like Aylward throughout history who obeyed God’s call even when others attempted to dissuade them. Like Gladys, they recognized that their passion and aptitude for preaching and teaching is not only God-given, it is also consistent with Scripture.
Thus, our forthcoming conference in Toronto will not only celebrate the history of missions and the gospel-partnerships of men and women. We will also examine Scripture as it supports women’s preaching and teaching. We will hear from missionaries, scholars, and business people who have personally encountered and overcome unscriptural opposition to their vocations. They will provide creative ways of answering God’s call when doors appear closed. We are honored to have historians such as Ruth Tucker as a speaker. Ruth’s careful assessment of the challenges and successes women evangelists have encountered will offer wisdom and inspiration.
Our Toronto Symposium, “Sent to Preach the Gospel: Women and Men to Using their Gifts for the Great Commission” is based on Romans 10:14–17. If you have not read these verses with gender in mind, why not begin now? Paul asks the church in Rome “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent. As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’… Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Rom. 10:14–17 TNIV).
Clearly Paul was eager to see the diverse Church in Rome, whose leaders included a remarkable number of slaves and women (cited in Rom. 16), reach the world with the peace and good news that comes through Jesus. Indeed, how beautiful are the feet of those slaves, women, and men who bring the good news! Like the church in Rome, women and people of all ethnic groups and social classes have and continue to preach the Gospel throughout the world!
What better place to convene a symposium on biblical equality and missions than Toronto, Ontario—one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world! Join us as we celebrate the women and men who from every tribe and nation who have embraced the biblical call to go throughout the world with the good news of our risen Lord. I hope to see you in Toronto this coming summer!