In planning for the break, I realized that this is the first Sunday I've taken off in over two years. (I know. I've already been scolded by several of my friends and family.) When I prayed about who to ask to teach in my stead, the first person who came to my mind for mother's day weekend was obvious: Anna Sheets. She did a great job.
Anna's been with Life Bridge since it's inception and as shown a consistent desire to walk together with God the entire time. She has shown a willingness to learn, grow, and submit to the will of God in her life. She also regularly shows a willingness to serve in any way He calls to build up the Body of Christ. I share all of this because she humbly accepted my request for her to teach, knowing that she would receive negative feedback from some of her brothers and sisters in Christ who believe in good faith that she shouldn't be allowed to teach or have authority over a man. She handles this difficult situation with poise and grace. This gives me more than one reason to say to her, "well done, good and faithful servant." It also prompts me to say, "Thank you, Anna."
Please understand, I am not thanking Anna for diminishing God's Word. She does not.
I'm not thanking her for being hard-headed, egotistical, or rebellious. She is not.
I am not thanking Anna for going against God. She works diligently to follow Him.
I'm thanking her for being faithful to Him and His Word in the midst of opposition.
It's funny, really. I never expected to be leading a local church congregation that seems "liberal" to outsiders looking in. It's the exact opposite, really, of who I am. For as long as I can remember I have had a deeply embedded desire to walk together with God. I've studied diligently from the days of my grade-school religion classes all the way through High School, College, Seminary, and even to today (when I spent my typical hour this morning in His Word just for personal growth.) I desperately desire to walk together with God.
This desire has driven me to ask quite a few questions over the years. (I was always the kid in the class asking, "If it says ______ in the Bible, why do we do _____ instead?") My questioning was not always well accepted. Over the years, though, I've learned to continue questioning and growing without being mean-spirited, argumentative, or judgmental. I do, however, keep asking what it looks like to walk together with God.
This process has been good. God has used this process to navigate me through questions asked by some of the greatest Biblical scholars and theologians throughout history. This process has helped me navigate across Christian denominations and through the study of many other belief systems - bringing me right back to God the Father, through The Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. My questioning process has helped me understand world religions, less-popular belief systems, Christian denominations, philosophy, theology, and solid exegetical Biblical interpretation. I'm grateful for the process God has brought me through and I look forward to the process He will continue in me. I thank God for this walk.
This is a long way to reach my point. I never expected to empower a woman to teach men. It simply wasn't done. It was the conservative Biblical interpretation of every denomination I had experienced and was the stance of every conservative scholar I had studied. It was simply what God's Word taught, and I never questioned this teaching. I read it for myself in Scripture - stated in different ways, but consistently stated. That's simply not the role women should play in the church...and I was fine with that.
Well, that's more than I can cover in a single blog-post. So, I will be writing about the process God has taken me through over the past 10+ years that brought me from asking women to faithfully live out one role in God's Church to asking them to faithfully live out more. It will take a little time to walk through this process, but my hope and prayer is that it will be time well spent. I'm also praying that you will come to the same conclusion that I did, if not about the role of women in the church, then about the process. The process is good.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7 NIV)