Our church recently hosted a training that brought together pastors, men, and women from across our region. When the day ended and the space cleared out, a distinct echo of feedback hung in the air: “We not only heard what you said, we felt it. The way we were loved, welcomed, and cared for was tangible.”
There was something about the way our pastors, the women in our church, and our broader church family interacted that day that provided a glimpse into how we might live every day as the church—as men and women in partnership to love God and love others, bearing witness to the reality of the gospel. A taste of the eternal kingdom breaking into the here and now.
This hasn’t always been true of our church. There were days when women asked, “Am I valued? Am I needed? Where do I belong?” These questions aren’t unique in the landscape of church life. A brief survey of women will stun you with lived experiences of being unseen and undervalued—or worse, hurt and victimized.
The differences between men and women have seemed like an impossible chasm to cross, but Scripture paints a different picture—one that orients us to the joint mission to which God has called us.
Men and Women Partnering in Mission
We don’t get far in Genesis before we see God’s command to Adam and Eve: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). God made them in his image, male and female, and gave them a job: to multiply image bearers. They cannot fulfill what was asked of them without each other. The household of God was missing the key voices of our sisters and mothers. The mission was weakened without their integration into the whole. Click To Tweet
The new covenant expands this task as Jesus broadens our understanding of fruitfulness. It’s spiritual. All are invited to be reborn through Christ (John 3:5–7). The command to make disciples (Matt. 28:19) echoes the garden command to be fruitful and multiply. He uses both men and women as weak and limited people to make himself known.
These truths about God’s design and intent made us pause to consider how this is lived out in our church. The life cycle of church planting calls for different seasons of emphasis. In our early days, calling leaders, forming a core team, building capital relationally, and orienting to our context all had a unique set of demands. But as our church matured, there was a glaring lack of partnership between men and women. The household of God was missing the key voices of our sisters and mothers. The mission was weakened without their integration into the whole.
So, how do we honor and value women in the work of gospel advancement?
Live as Family in the Church
Jesus’s proclamation of a kingdom reality regularly left his disciples bewildered. He defined who qualifies as family by orienting them to the Father’s mission. “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, sister, and mother” (Matt. 12:50). The gathering of people who are unlike one another, not naturally affiliated, speaks to the lavish invitation the church has to offer the world.
Our Father has adopted us as his own (Eph. 1:5). This reality shifts the relationship we have with one another. Seeing those in our church as brothers and sisters opens up intimacy and connection for which the world has no category. The church has an opportunity to be a shadow of the greater reality yet to come. It’s not a club or a set of programs to administer; it’s a diverse family united by God. The church has an opportunity to be a shadow of the greater reality yet to come. It’s not a club or a set of programs to administer; it’s a diverse family united by God. Click To Tweet
One of the regular statements my pastor utters is, “Don’t play scared.” The subtle divisions and potential “what-ifs?” between men and women have set roadblocks for fruitfulness. Fear can choke unity by establishing rules, rather than leaning into the relationship. We don’t ignore temptations and we must pursue holiness. Fear is a force that takes us out of the game. Believing God is with us in his call catapults us to courageous living.
Men and women are different. This is the strength and fullness of God’s design to honor what he has created. We do that by living unashamedly as who we are. To be a man and to be a woman both have glories to behold. God sets each of us in unique spheres of influence with a range of gifts. When we receive this, we notice the necessity of both men and women in mission. Our differences are purposeful and give clues on how to build healthy teams, churches, and communities that reflect Christ’s glory. The most radical strategy we might employ as church planters and church members is to honor and value the women who have been gifted to our churches. Click To Tweet
Our church culture has shifted by slowing down and paying attention to who Jesus has given us. The most radical strategy we might employ as church planters and church members is to honor and value the women who have been gifted to our churches. It not only builds healthy churches but is an undeniable witness to a watching world.