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Your Workplace is your Ministry

Response to Resignation of Eve

If you read the book The Resignation of Eve, you will be changed.

I read it, and am troubled on many levels.

First, personally. About 8 years ago, I found myself surrounded by women who were about 10 years older than me. The one thing many of these woman had in common, besides a call to ministry, was a deep anger at the system. They felt isolated and disrespected. Why? Because there was (and remains) no clear career path for women in ministry. I vowed to never be one of these women – to trust God and be what He had called me to be.

Then I lost my advocate.

Which brings me to this book. I think I identified with every woman in this book. The ones who firmly believed in male hierarchy? I spent years trying to make my husband act out my giftings so that I could have permission to lead. Perhaps the most healthy thing that ever happened to my marriage was when a man stepped up to be my advocate, giving me the ability to lead in the areas God gifted me in. He gave me a place at the table. He corrected me a lot, but he also lifted the lid for me so that I could grow as a leader. (For those of you who don’t know the phrase, John Maxwell talks about lid lifters – those that come alongside leaders and find out what is keeping them down and remove it – it can be internal to the person or external to the situation.)

Then there are those women who have walked away from the church. Ouch! It is so painful to be on the outside looking in. I find I have a lot in common with those ladies I never wanted to be like. It is easy to feel sidelined and choose to disengage, or better yet, hold anger to explain why I am in this painful place. Worse is that every path leads someplace, and when your path leads away from church, eventually it leads away from the One at the head of the church.

Last, there are those women who are doing ministry as they go. This is the root of the person I have been all along.

However, reading this book, I have some growing concerns corporately.

1. I see a dichotomy in Jim’s speech, as in some places he calls for women to be welcomed into church leadership, in some places he speaks against mega churches, and in still others he talks about women’s senior pastor opportunities being limited to country churches. I picked up on this because I was once told that a woman will never lead a congregation of larger than 70 people. Soon thereafter, the same person opened doors for me to lead hundreds in a larger congregation. Since my gifting is a corporate one, I see things in large numbers. I believe in the economy of large churches – where you have a large group of people who are focused and led well, you have the time, energy and fiscal resources to make a real difference.

2. This brings me to my biggest concern. The examples in this book were terrific. The women who are ministering aren’t leading huge things, they are making a difference in small spaces. I think this shows the root of what I have balked against – if women don’t have lid lifters, they will lead, but they will leave the church to do so.

What happens when women find ways to minister outside the church?

a. They show up on Sunday, but don’t engage beyond what is required.

b. They make a real difference in the world, but since they aren’t engaged in church, they continue to invite people to community – just not the church. So, we end up with small communities holding each other together and helping one another survive and stay focused on God.

c. The church loses its corporate economy or ability to make a systemic difference.

Can you hear me yet? LOL - This picture has no real significance. I just thought it was funny.

d. When we decentralize, we end up with more of a personal view. Leaders replicate themselves. When they aren’t given an opportunity to lead corporately, they begin to lead personally. Individual efforts take more work, and therefore a whole life focus, which means that we have to make money along the way. When we replicate, our view of God is much more personal and therefore lacking the corporate dimension. Service becomes a way to make money. (Whereas pastors, who get paid, can organize efforts corporately so that the passions of people work together as a whole, creating a lot of results with volunteer efforts.)

Now that I’ve said a hunk of negative, I have to also speak for other possibilities. If God is changing the way things are, and decentralizing the church, then our whole perception of relationship will change. We know that we have seen the end of the industrial age and the modern era. This new time is the information age, and the post-modern era. A part of me wonders if the women who are taking their leadership outside the church are on the front wave of this new way of life.

Women started leaving the church to create their own institutions a long time ago. Bible Study Fellowship started in 1959, right when women were realizing they had time and energy. Before that, it was women’s suffrage. Is this a trend to individual bible study and personal growth, or is it the destruction of the church? One of the things that rose up during the dark ages was the pious individual – the person dedicated to knowing God and therefore shining His light in terrible darkness.

Recent changes in worship have also included the rise of house churches. Many years ago I read about a house church in Seattle whose focus was to make a difference in their neighborhood. Church? yes. Effective? yes. Reaching people? probably. Orchestrating change by being Jesus’ representation on earth? yes. More than 30 people? no.

So I wonder where I fit in all this. I still have a corporate view. Does that mean I am a dinosaur, or that I see things the way God wants them to be? I wonder what would happen if someone were able to help all these women who are reaching out to their own sphere connect and see themselves as part of a larger picture.

9 Comments

  1. I have really enjoyed your review. Thank you for taking time to consider many aspects form your experience. BTW, I am one of the “resigned from” gals… and I am on the cusp of re-signing.

    Your comments made me think, and that is usally good! Even though a part of my story is in the book, in reality I’m still processing the events of my life and the twists in the journey that have transpired over the past few years. In fact, I am very thankful to Father for the twists, the potholes, the roots across the path, and the assurance that He is, indeed, leading the way!

    I wanted to key in on a couple of thoughts. “…eventually it leads away from the One at the head of the church.” In my case, this has not happened. If anything, I find that I’m closer than ever to Christ, the Head. In retrospect, I think I had allowed the comfortable traditions and rituals of [what we loosly call] church to become a surrogate for true intimacy with Father. This is likely both a product and an outcome resulting in relatively shallow relationships within the Church. (Of course, a few friendships were more intimate, but even those might have been even more sustaining without some of the ‘trappings’)

    “A part of me wonders if the women who are taking their leadership outside the church are on the front wave of this new way of life.” I have wondered the same thing. I don’t know that the jury is in on this one. However, it is clear to me that the traditional, institutional forms of church we grew up with are disintegrating, imploding or fading from the picture. I’ll tell you about the most recent one of my past sometime. I’m certainly not against the larger corporate style of fellowship, but it is apparant to me that fewer of these are sustainable or the ones that are growing are at the expense of smaller congregations. By the way, traditionally the bulk of ‘churches’ are those with under 200 in membership (which usuallly means attendance is around 70 or so.)

    “Does that mean I am a dinosaur, or that I see things the way God wants them to be?” I don’t think God is really so concerned about the format of the ‘church’, as in a local group of believers. Well, maybe when the form interferes with the function. I have been a dinasour (and ostrich) most of my life. I can’t tell you how freeing it is to let go of the pre-conceptions. My disillusionment and then re-discover of Christ as Life has truly set this captive free. My hubby and I may be choosing to align ourselves with a fairly traditional (model of) a local church. I feel free to do this. At the same timeI do not have a single qualm about starting a house church, embarking on a yet-to-be-established ministry, or participating in more than one local fellowship and not becoming a “member” so to speak, should I sense the Spirit’s quiet whisper in one of those directions. You, on the other hand, need to keep doing what you have understood to be your ministry. For, really, it isn’t about me, or about you. Life in Christ is all about growing into Him… and letting him live through us.

    • Kim

      22/02 at

      Laura – I really enjoyed your comment (yes, comments disappeared from my site for a while, but I think I found them…or at least where to look for them). Couple things:

      “I am very thankful to Father for the twists, the potholes, the roots across the path, and the assurance that He is, indeed, leading the way!” – this brought tears to my eyes. Some days, I get to thankful, but some days, I still am mad. I think this is also part of transition – if you run into a wall going 50 miles an hour, you are going to experience pain, and some of the emotional results are agony and anger.

      Your last paragraph should be framed – we do each need to do what God has called us to. Maybe He pulls us from church from time to time to remind us of why we were there to begin with – it really is all about relationship with Him.

  2. Thank you for this deeply thoughtful review, Kim. Tyndale House Publishers would like to invite you to join a free 60 minute national conversation on women and the church @ 5 pm PST/8 pm EST Monday 2/27 via cloud-conference call. Discussion will include the Barna research showing that women are “resigning” from organized religion in America as well as Jim Henderson’s book you just reviewed, The Resignation of Eve. If you’re interested, please email me for a registration link.
    ~Maggierowe@tyndale.com

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful review of Jim’s book. To be transparent, I want it known I am a friend of Jim’s and work “with” him. It has been fun to see the conversations that have been stimulated by this book. It is a conversation that has now been made public. Long overdue.

    After more than 50 years in the church, I currently find myself to be a church refugee. I was always a key volunteer in church and five years on staff at a megachurch before leaving. Serving in the church and the world was my way of leading.

    It seems to me that people/church leadership are more rigid today about women not leading men than almost anytime I can remember. They are also more rigid in how they define a man’s role. Neither seems healthy to me nor God inspired – to me.

    Trying to deny your God given leadership is almost impossible and is a recipe for misery.

    And, yes, a new way is being born. When I was 13 years old, I envisioned this day, but never expected to live long enough to see it. My role has been to do my part and announce it to others. We only need eyes to see and ears to hear – it has already arrived. What we are experiencing now is the resistance and denial – the old ways will not go quietly into the night…one last attempt to hold onto the past is being made.

    I’d like to invite you and your readers to our Resignation of Eve Cloud Conference on Feb. 27 @8pm EST – you only need a telephone to join the call and have a chance to participate in a conversation with Jim and the women of RoE when we virtually break you into small groups.

    http://myaccount.maestroconference.com/conference/register/D5YMSUE4530RMOB

    You can read more about it here:
    http://resignationofeve.com/roe-cloud-conference/

    • Kim

      22/02 at

      Elaine – I appreciate your input. You know, history tells us that when a people becomes squashed, God is also at work. I’ve been wondering what is happening from a different perspective. Wondering what God is up to. I know that He hasn’t left us out to dry, and you are right about the increasing animosity toward women in leadership. Right now, I am attempting to meet with women in various forms of ministry around Puget Sound, to find out what they are seeing and to try to get a sense of what God is up to. I tend to approach life through analysis, so I am using this gifting to discover what all this means – it can’t just mean oppression. It has to mean God is moving in some way.

  4. Jim Henderson

    15/02 at

    Kim

    Thanks for you heartfelt and insightful review of my book. I really appreciate you taking time to read and review it

  5. Instead of responding to your specific points, Kim, I’d like to use your perspective as a backdrop for some additional thoughts about women who have the call of God on their lives.

    While serving in ministry leadership at a mega-church over 15 years ago, I co-founded the group of women you perceived as being deeply angry at the system. (My apologies; I thought most of us were reveling in the camaraderie and bringing up challenges in order to discover solutions–but I do respect your perception.) As I read your comments just now, I realized that the ministry challenges I faced in my former denomination are not present in my current church.

    Six years ago, after circumstances beyond my control removed me from my ministry position, God led me to a very conservative (read “evangelical”) congregation within a mainline denomination. It was a denomination that I’d been taught most of my life to consider as apostate. I’d heard from the pulpit many times that very few pastors in that other denomination knew Christ as Savior.

    Well, in His mercy, God surrounded me with those “apostate” people to teach me that Christendom is not as severely bereft of believers as I had been led to believe. What a shocker! I was also surprised to note that this denomination had numerous female senior pastors. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that instead of being voted on by congregations, pastors are appointed by bishops–some of whom are women themselves.

    I’ve preached twice now in my current church (two services on Sunday morning each time), have been asked to serve on leadership committees, and would be warmly welcomed into practically any ministry position I expressed interest in. This is a refreshing change from my former denomination where women ostensibly had the right to lead, but leadership positions weren’t always as easy to attain in real life.

    In 2003 I attended my then-denomination’s national convention. During a business session, a resolution was on the floor concerning some aspect of women in leadership. I was astounded when a male pastor from a Southern state rose to speak vehemently against women serving in any leadership position in the church, especially as senior pastor. I could hardly believe he would want to be part of a denomination that has ordained women for decades–not because of any social agenda, but because of a fervent belief that Scripture teaches spiritual equality for women. But there that man was, spreading a smothering blanket of disrespect over hundreds of women ministers within his hearing in that meeting

    I’ve observed that the way women ministry leaders are treated often has more to do with the culture of an organization than it does with its legislated policies.

    Now I’d like to talk about the comment concerning women “leaving the ministry.” I wonder how accurate the stats are on this issue. Just because I no longer serve on a church’s paid staff, and I have taken on non-ministry copywriting work to pay the bills, a lot of people think I’ve left the ministry, especially after I let my credentials lapse with my former denomination. Those people don’t know that I’m credentialed with another ministry group now, I do baptisms and weddings, lead a weekly Bible study in my home, have an online ministry to wounded Christians, speak to parachurch groups across the country, and write devotions and inspirational articles for Christian periodicals with circulations in the thousands.

    I don’t call that leaving the ministry. I call it “tentmaking,” an activity that many men also undertake in order to feed their families while fulfilling the call of God on their lives.

    While I never would have chosen my current circumstances as a way to make a difference in the world, God has a penchant for connecting me with the people he wants me to minister to, even if my door doesn’t have the word “Pastor” on it anymore. He plops individuals next to me on airplanes, sends them to my house to fix broken appliances, inspires them to ask me to help them on résumés . . . The list is endless.

    And so is God’s grace. Although nothing has unfolded in my life the way I thought it should, maybe God is more interested in conforming me to the image of His Son than He is in fulfilling my expectations.

    I do know this: God didn’t equip me with spiritual gifts, decades of experience, and a master’s degree just to banish me to a dim corner. If I’ve learned anything in all in life, it’s that God’s ways are higher than mine–and that Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. It’s taken me a long time to realize that that’s enough. But it truly is. I know without a doubt that new doors of ministry will open for me at the right times and the right places. And when they do, I’ll be ready.

    • Kim

      22/02 at

      Diana! Your comment showed up! A couple of things – 1. I hope I wasn’t offensive about that group. My point was that I felt the pain and anger and had no idea how to help, and honestly, in my ignorance, thought it was because of something in them…then I lost my advocate and found that place of hopelessness all to familiar.

      As far as people leaving the ministry – was that what I said? Ugh. My point is that women are building conferences, etc. online – but I am also noticing a growing trend of women building other women to be what God called them to be…but they are not showing them how to be in community so much as showing them how to be great entrepreneurs. I fear for the decentralization of the church. I fear it will create something very negative.

      Last, know how much I appreciate you. I am so delighted that you found a place to minister. I haven’t yet, and the pain is still pretty intense. I do believe that God removed me from ministry for a season, so my family could have my emotional energy. What we have gone through in the last few years is beyond incredible. I feel the winds of change beginning to blow. When I read this book, it dredged up a lot of stuff I didn’t even realize was there.

  6. Kim

    14/02 at

    So I found out about a teleconference on the book coming up 2/27: http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=363a85039523efaf8f9001cd8&id=b6a7a9716d&e=8fab6e3c46

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