Whether you are a female on staff or volunteer leading a ministry, whether you are a pastors’ wife or an assistant, allow Hebrews 12:1–3 to bolster your confidence in your role as a woman and encourage your commitment to both the work and the people you work alongside.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”
As female ministers of the gospel, how are we called to run this race specific to our role? What do we lay down? God calls us to lay two things aside—both “weight” and “sin that clings so closely.” So let’s bifurcate this and put every hard thing we face into two categories: weight and sin.
What We’re Facing
There is burden and encumbrance in ministry. There is also depravity and brokenness.
My experience as a woman in leadership is that there’s little talk about the unique weight that comes with our ministry. Often, the substance of what we talk about in many reformed circles is only about sin and the opportunities for repentance and confession. But in Hebrews 12:1, it’s clear there’s something else: there is weight that isn’t sin. What you’re facing might be challenging because it’s simply a weight.God invites us to look to Jesus without ceasing as we run the race of ministry. Click To Tweet
Here are some of the things that I have found to be weight:
- I have felt disappointed when I have not been considered for roles because it’s a pastoral role.
- I’ve been unsure how to dress in a way that doesn’t distract from my leadership but also doesn’t define it.
- I never know if I’m speaking up too much or not enough. I second-guess myself when I step out of many meetings.
These are some of the things that have been sinful:
- I have burned with jealousy against the younger generation—women specifically—who are raised to take my place in ministry.
- I have complained to my husband or closest friend instead of confronting people who have sinned against me.
- I have let the fear of man control my voice in meetings.
- I’ve carried judgment towards my bosses for decisions that I disagree with.
The truth of Hebrews 12:1–3 has led me to understand both sin and weight. Not only does it give perspective, but God goes on to tell us to lay these things aside and run “with endurance” (Heb. 12:1). This doesn’t mean “drop it off at the beginning to never see it again.” It’s a daily act of setting aside both sin and weight and running with endurance.
Look to Jesus
We aren’t running for the sake of running. We’re called to look to Jesus.
Jesus is acquainted with our suffering. His ideas were questioned. His identity was questioned. Jesus was betrayed and misunderstood. Can you relate? God invites us to look to Jesus without ceasing as we run the race of ministry.
Here are a few observations to consider.
- Some of us are good at talking about the weight and the sin. We read all the sources that remind us of church hurt and forget to look to Jesus.
- Some are cynical and ignore God’s call not to grow weary. Has your faint-heartedness turned into despair or cynicism?
- Maybe you’re like me, and your faint-heartedness turned into bitter roots. For many women, burnout isn’t going to be what takes us out of ministry—it will be bitterness.
Women, I hope this for the sake of health in your ministry and for the next generation. Many have become obsessed with the weight and the sins of church leadership. We have a generation that’s told if they could just solve the issue of church hurt, then we’d all be able to run our races.
What is at risk if female church leaders cannot acknowledge both the weight and sin that entangles? We risk an ambiguous and chaotic view of the church for the next generation of women. Our silence will lead our daughters to believe what the world tells them—that men are the enemy, male authority is evil, and they must fight for their voice to be heard, not the Word of God. There is too much at stake for us to be silent.
You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Lay aside the weight and the sin that clings so closely. Look to Jesus and run your race.