More than ever before, the world needs you!
You, a woman of faith desperately in love with Jesus, willing to step up and step out to use her godly influence to impact the world for the Kingdom of God. God has already equipped you to lead. God has already given you permission to lead. And He WANTS you to lead.
If that’s true, then why do so many women of faith shy away from leading? Perhaps we have bought into too many lies about women of faith and leadership that we hear from our family of origin, society and even our faith communities. We don’t believe God has given us permission to lead because people don’t give us permission to lead. It’s time to clear the confusion around women of faith leading.
(Wo) Man’s Confusion
The real problem with understanding our permission to lead stems from confusion around what leadership is. Both men and women of faith are confused because the truth is not taught and accepted and has therefore skewed the very definition of leadership. If we have a skewed view of leadership based on the messages and experiences we just discussed, then we will be confused when we hear things like, we have Permission from God to Lead.
Too many think leadership is about control and power. You can see that lie clearly displayed in societies around the world today, as well as throughout history. Leadership is not about power or control, it’s about influence.
Defining Leadership-leadership in its most basic definition is influence. Leadership is influencing the thoughts, behaviors and actions of others. That influence can be positive or negative, but its still influence. The influence that we put ourselves under will also affect how we influence others. We must be aware of this.
We mistakenly define leadership as something positional. Positional Leadership-a title or position given to someone, whether they are capable or qualified to lead others or not. A position does not make someone a leader. We know this truth because we have all worked for or been under people who were in a position of leadership, but didn’t lead, or influence those who were in positions under them.
Then there is practical leadership. When we think of those in a management or supervisory position. This is Practical Leadership-getting things done-more like middle management (leading people to get things done that management or higher ups want done.) This is not leadership, this is management. It may influence actions, but not the thoughts and behaviors from an intrinsic perspective.
Then we come to Biblical Leadership which has been twisted by both confused men and women who think leadership is reserved solely for men simple due to their gender. But Biblical Leadership is really about servant hood. This is what Jesus both modeled and taught repeatedly. And even God, as He led His people, the Israelites did it through serving them. He provided for them and guided them with love, patience and longsuffering. He did not rule with an iron fist as some think. Read the prophets and you will see how God implored His children and gave grace repeatedly.
Obviously, if we remain confused about what leadership is, we will shy away from leading. So let’s clear the confusion, shall we?
So where did this confusion originate? This idea that men rule, and lead and women are to follow.
It started at the fall.
Before the fall, Adam and Eve were a team. They were partners in the garden. They were partners with God in the creation. There was no sin and so there was no power struggle or desire to control another.
Once they sinned, God provided the curse of sin, which was primarily separation from close fellowship with God.
God said to Eve that part of the curse was a break in the teamwork model He created. He told Eve in Genesis 3:16, “Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
Unfortunately, this passage has been so misinterpreted through the ages. Some have even interpreted it to say that it means women will desire their husbands sexually. (As if!) But the word desire here is the same one used in chapter 4 verse 7 where God warns Cain about sin desiring to have him. God was saying, sin wants to control you, but you must control it. So the result of the fall was that Adam and Eve went from being complete partners and a team to wanting to control each other. It was a disruption of the relationship, just as the relationship with God was disrupted. Just as Adams relationship to the ground (the garden) was disrupted. Now there would be a hierarchy, an inequality. They went from teamwork, to seeking control. I use this example of Adam and Eve, not because of the husband and wife relationship per se, but because this was the beginning of the battle for control and power. This is where the treatment of women as lesser began. We see the result of the fall in all the patriarchal societies that followed from then until now.
But Jesus (and God) have showed what redemption in this relationship looks like. It looks like serving one another and submitting to one another, being united as one in Christ, not ruling over one another. God is in the business of redemption. He started redeeming from right after the curse (with the promise of the Messiah) and continues to redeem even now. So when we choose to serve and be united with one another, instead fighting for control, then we display the redemption God wants to bring in our relationships and the world as a whole.
And you can see the redemption of women from this curse through all of scripture.
Part of understanding that God has given us permission to lead is looking at how He elevated women to lead and influence in scripture.
God elevated women above the patriarchal culture of the Middle East.
Jesus elevated women above the patriarchal culture of the Roman Empire in the early church.
God is still elevating women above the patriarchal culture of the church of today.
We are going to look at some of these women now. Some you will be familiar with and others you may have never heard of before. Some had positions of leadership/influence, others just used their influence where God placed them.
We’ll start with Judge-We are familiar with Deborah, the only female judge mentioned in Israel’s dark history. (Judges 4-5) She was not only a judge of the people; she was also a prophet and she judged over the king Barak(a man) at the time. And she was a military leader when Barak would not go into battle without her, and she wrote a battle song. (She also prophesied that a woman (Jael) would kill the enemy king Sisera, giving the credit for the kill to a woman.) Under Deborah’s leadership, Israel enjoyed 40 years of peace. And she is one of the few judges nothing negative was said about.
Prophets: Scripture identifies 8 women in scripture as prophets, though more had prophetic visions. We already mentioned Deborah as a prophet, but there were more female prophets in both the Old and New Testament. Here is a list of them with the corresponding scripture:
Huldah-(2 Kings 22 & 2 Chronicles 34) She was a prophet at the time of Jeremiah ,Habakkuk, Zephaniah and Nahum, but King Josiah summoned for her to come and clarify what he was reading in the scrolls. Her counsel resulted in the sweeping reforms enacted by King Josiah.
Miriam-(Exodus 15:20) She is the first woman mentioned as a prophet. We know that she was also a leader of Israel and literally saved Moses’ life. (as did several other women). Of course she wrote the song after God closed the Red Sea, killing all the Egyptians. Something of note: some Hebrew scholars believe the reason Moses sinned by striking the rock instead of speaking to it is that Miriam had just died, and she had been a life-long influence on Moses.
Isaiah’s wife-Though no name is given to her, Isaiah calls her a prophet. They named their children after the prophecies God gave them.
Anna-(Luke 2:36-38) Anna was called a prophet and spoke over the infant Jesus when Mary & Joseph brought him to the temple.
Phillip’s Daughters-(Acts 2:8-9) Phillip had 4 unmarried daughters, all who were prophets. We do not have their names or any other information except that they are mentioned.
Other women who prophesied, though they didn’t have the title include: Rachel, Hannah, Abigail, Elizabeth and Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Queens: Queen Esther, is mentioned the most as an example as a woman in a position of influence. But also mentioned is the incredible wealth and influence of the Queen of Sheba (who Jesus even mentions in the NT. Luke 11:31) And of course, Bathsheba had an incredible influence as a Queen to David (though without the title) and of course with Solomon, her son on the Throne, she continued to influence the things that happened in Israel)
Apostles: The definition of Apostle is “sent one”. As Mary Magdalene was sent by Jesus to go tell the 12 about His resurrection, some infer she was the first female apostle. That may or may not be true. If so, then the woman at the well was also and apostle. But there is one mentioned specifically as an apostle, Junia. (Romans16:7) Paul sends greetings to Andronicus and Junia, who he refers to as fellow Jews, prisoners and outstanding apostles.
Disciples: Many people only think of the twelve men as Jesus’ disciples, when of course he had many more than that, including many women: Mary & Martha, Mary His Mother, Mary Magdalene, and more! As well as the “Other Women” mentioned in scripture who supported His ministry from their own resources.
Deacons: Phoebe is explicitly mentioned as a deacon in Romans 16:1-2. She was a great help to Paul and the church, and some believe she may have delivered the letter of Romans to the church in Rome. Other female deacons are eluded to in 2 Timothy 3:8-13 where the qualifications for the deacons is listed.
Teachers: There are various women mentioned as teachers: Priscilla (throughout Acts) (of the Priscilla/Aquilla team); Lois and Eunice (2 Timothy 1) (mother and grandmother of Timothy), Lydia (acts 16), Euodia and Syntheche (Phil 4)
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. And it mentions nothing of the leaders and influencers like Tabitha, or Jehosheba, or Rizpah, or Rahab, or Naomi & Ruth, or the Woman of Shunem. But I highlight these for us to see that God equips and calls us as women to lead where He places us. To be bold and confident in His view of us and to see that no matter what society, or cultures say, God is for women, and He elevates them.
So what does all of this mean for you and I today? It means that just like those women in scripture, God is not only giving us permission to lead, He is Commissioning us to lead.
When Jesus was about to ascend into heaven, He gave the great commission to His disciples. The disciples present there were both men and women. He called all of us, men and women to go and make disciples who make disciples.
To do that, we must influence, we must lead. Here are four practical ways to lead.
LEAD Like Jesus. Obviously, if we are going to lead, we want our leadership to be a reflection of Jesus, not a soapbox for ourselves. Jesus made it clear that Leadership in His Kingdom would be about serving others, not serving self
LEAD by Example. What good is leadership that doesn’t walk the walk they talk about. We need to show the women around us that God has given us the permission and commission to lead by actually leading. The next generation of women need to know they can boldly step into their callings and influence the world for Christ, regardless of their marital, financial or societal status
LEAD without Apology: Where we face resistance from men or women, church or society, workplace or culture, we must lead without apology because we do it for Christ and no one else. We must lead in our gifting, using everything God has given us, even if others don’t approve. We don’t need their approval; we need only be obedient to God. What did Peter and the other apostles say when the religious leaders told them to quit teaching about Jesus? We must obey God rather than man. We must do the same.
LEAD in Our Spheres: The last part of our commission, is to understand that we can lead where we are at today. We don’t need to go far to find those who need the influence of Christ in their lives. Start where God has placed you, then go as He leads you.
It’s Your Time! Don’t be Silent!
Now is the time! We love to quote the second part of that verse in Esther, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” But we seldom quote the first part, “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.” (Esther 4:14 ESV)
You never see the first half of that verse on journal covers or wall plaques. Why? Because that requires us to step up, step out and LEAD! Esther led because the world at her time needed her. Your world at your time needs you!
Don’t be silent! Go lead, because God’s already given you permission. And His is the only permission you need.