As Director of Women’s Ministry, I hold tight to the conviction that the primary responsibility of my job, and indeed of my life, is to equip women of God to do God’s work. If I were directing a women’s leadership teaching, this is point when I would ask those in attendance to stop and read through the whole of Ephesians 4. If you have ten minutes, I think I will ask you to do the same.
There is simply nothing like reading biblical truth to set the stage for a paradigm shift into biblical thinking.
Ephesians 4: 11-12 states that “He (Jesus) gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ…”
Essentially, God gave His people gifts of teaching, shepherding, and of leading those who do not yet know Jesus toward Him, for the primary purpose of preparing and empowering those who do know Jesus to serve well and build the church well. As you read this verse within the context of the entire chapter of Ephesians 4, it is easy to see the beauty of the Gospel laced through charge of equipping the people of God. Paul is beseeching the Ephesian church, and every other follower of Jesus that would ever walk on solid ground, to do things that most express the honor of being made in the image of God, and of being loved and saved by the Son of God. He is compelling woman and man to honor their salvation by walking worthy of this sacred gift. Paul is seeking to aim the follower of Christ at unity, by encouraging us to use our Holy Spirit infused God-given gifts to build one another and the church. Taken in the context of the entirety of the Gospel, we can hear the rhythms of the commissioning of Matthew 28:18-20 in every verse. We are dignified by being designed in the very image of God, and again by being “saved to the uttermost” by the rich blood of the One true Savior Jesus Christ. Within the safety and beauty of our redemptive state, we are given gifts from God intended for the purpose of encouraging ourselves and those we walk alongside to love Jesus, love people well, to serve well, and to lead well.
Love Jesus. Love Well. Serve Well. Lead Well.
I recently heard someone say that all those who choose to follow Christ will naturally find themselves leading in some context. We cannot share Jesus well without living lives that lead others toward Him, so whether we are naturally bent toward leadership is of little concern. We seek to lead well because He leads us well. As Paul so aptly stated, “Follow me as I follow Him.” (1 Cor. 11:1)
So, what does all this have to do with empowering women in ministry? We live in a society that enshrines achievement, individuality and competition. As such most of us have been trained to win, and to be constantly glancing sideways to compare ourselves to the pace and process of someone else. As a young unredeemed woman, I saw every woman I encountered as my competition, and I always believed I had to be the best at everything. This mentality caused me to miss out on deep relationships, on focusing on honing my natural God-given gifts, and made me believe that success was scarce and I had to “get mine.” The sideways glance of comparison and what author and speaker Lysa TerKeurst refers to as the “scarcity mentality,” in which we believe there is not enough for everyone, leads us to an inability to be satisfied in who and what we are, as well as a propensity to be unwilling to build and encourage other women. Think back to Ephesians 4. The entire purpose of our God-given gifts is so that we might build up other people, rather than step on the heads of others to get where we want to go! Upside-down thinking! To add to the directive of being women who build, we find the beautiful truth that as we seek to use our God-given gifts to build others, we in turn find joy, relationship and a deep sense of purpose and satisfaction. It is the rule of reciprocity – the “give and it shall be given” of growing and empowering others. It never diminishes us to empower another woman to use her gifts and skills to spread the love of Jesus even if her gifts and skills seem similar to those we have been given. We can stand confident that each of us have a particular purpose and are uniquely designed to fulfill that purpose. As we embrace this understanding and live in the Gospel light of Ephesian 4, we will find that there is great satisfaction in calling out the gifts of another woman, and in helping her to hone and use her unique skills to the building up of the body of Christ.
Written by Stacey Monaco